Andrea Speed Interviews Her Characters from Infected: Throwaways (Mean Streets #2), her latest release (guest blog and tour)

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Infected: Throwaways (Mean Streets #2) by Andrea Speed
DSP Publications
Cover Art: Anne Cain

Buy links:

DSP Publications

Amazon

 

If you Google “Proust character questions”, you’ll find a list of questions that the French author supposedly came up with to get to know your characters better. I’m going to use it as a game, and randomly ask Roan, Holden, or Chai one of the questions. To make it even more challenging for me, I’m using random numbers to pull up the questions. This could be great, or this could be a disaster. Let’s find out together!

 ~ Andrea Speed Interviews Roan, Holden and Chai ~

1. What is your greatest regret?

 Holden: It is too early in the day for that question.

Chai: Honestly? That I didn’t rip all of Paul’s clothes out of the closet and burn them in the parking lot when I had the chance. Not that I’m bitter.

Roan: Greatest? That I didn’t have more time with Paris.

Holden: Way to bring the room down, Roan.

Roan: You haven’t answered yet.

Holden: I try not to regret anything. It gives you wrinkles.

 2. What is your most marked characteristic?

 Holden: What the hell does that even mean?

Roan: I’ll name yours if you can’t.

Chai: Um, that’s actually a tough one. I think I’m pretty reserved.

Roan: You’re introspective. That’s not a bad thing.

Holden: I guess that makes me the big old extrovert.

Roan: No. You’re street name is Fox, right? You’re a clever son of a bitch. And the worst thing is you know it.

Holden: Look at mister smarty pants here. I guess that’s yours.

Roan: I actually thought mine was my stubbornness.

Holden: Dude, the answer is lion. It’s always lion.

3. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

 Holden: All of them.

Chai: Purity. Why? What good is it? How does it help you? It seems really pointless.

Roan: I agree with Chai. That one seems sexist and encouraging submissive conformity, which is all insidious. Same with obedience, which just makes my skin crawl.

Holden: How many five dollar words did you use just now?

Roan: Fifteen dollars and thirty five cents worth.

Holden: Thirty five cents?

Roan: There has to be tax.

 4. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

 Roan: I could say a whole bunch of things, but I think living in a big, futuristic library on another planet. With my husband, of course.

Holden: Oh God. Roan, how the hell could being a space librarian be your idea of happiness? I feel so bad for you.

Chai: I … um. I sort of feel bad admitting this, but I wouldn’t have lost my leg or gotten these scars, and I would probably live in a big mansion in a tropical paradise, with many different kinds of pool boys at my beck and call.

Roan: I like your scars.

Holden: So do I. Although I feel like my statement means more, because Roan is scarred up like a ratty old tom cat, and it’s ridiculously, infuriatingly hot.

Roan: You haven’t said what yours is.

Holden: Three words: no straight people.

 5. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

 Roan: I wouldn’t be infected.

Holden: Dude.

Chai: Similar answer – I’d have my leg back.

Holden: And here I was just going to ask for a six-pack. Way to make me feel shallow, guys.

 6. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what do you think it would be?

 Holden: There’s two answers for that. Person would be a soap opera star. Male or female, but probably female.

Chai: You do like drama.

Holden: Do I ever. And if I came back as a thing, I think it would be a butt plug. A really good one.

Chai: That was too easy.

Holden: Don’t blame me. I didn’t come up with these questions.

Chai: Uh, person? I’d hope I’d be a Bollywood star. So I could dance and sing like a lunatic and get paid for it. I’m not even going to speculate about thing, ‘cause … that’s a slippery slope.

Roan: As Holden said, the answer is always lion.

Holden: So no different than now?

Roan: *stares intensely at Holden*

Holden: Okay, so, let’s wrap this up before I get eaten. In a bad way.

 **

Blurb

From the Infected Universe

Former prostitute and street kid turned private detective Holden Krause is asked to look into the murder of Burn, a black-market dealer, who turns up dead near the infamous homeless encampment known as the Jungle. It’s a place Holden is familiar with—and his memories of it aren’t entirely bad. The settlement has been taken over by sinister people but Holden isn’t afraid to take them on. A big part of his PI gig is cover for his more dangerous vigilante crusade: exacting justice for the people the system ignores, the throwaways—people just like the ones living in the Jungle.

It’s getting harder and harder for Holden’s partner, Chai Nayar, to look the other way while Holden searches out retribution beyond the confines of the law. When one of their associates is shot and Holden realizes—far too late—that he’s in over his head with this case, Chai is left to pick up the pieces and hopefully save their lives. He resorts to the only solution he can find and calls Roan, who is more lethal than ever. Will it be their saving grace, or a fatal mistake?

 

 

Excerpt

As far as Holden knew, Burn had no family, here or anywhere. He was a man without a country, a home, a basic understanding of dental hygiene. All that was generally known about him was that his appetite for drugs was bottomless, and if you needed something questionable fast—untraceable gun, pharmaceuticals, car of dubious provenance—he was the guy to see. He’d been around since Holden had started his life on the streets. Burn could be found at the dirtiest bar in town, swilling cut-rate hooch at a back booth, dealing drugs in the filthy men’s room. He was the man your parents warned you about, no matter who your parents were. He was a tragedy and a warning at the same time.

That was about all Holden really knew about him. He knew Burn’d done time, but he didn’t know what for. He knew he’d taken to meth recently, but only because of the chemical smell he gave off and the sad state of his teeth. Holden knew he went missing for days, sometimes weeks or even months, but he always popped back up, and nothing was ever said about it. Except for this time. This time, his disappearance was a prelude to his death.

Kevin told him where to find the morgue, and Holden didn’t have the heart to tell him that he already knew where it was. He was quite familiar with it. It wouldn’t be his first time visiting the place, and given the circles he ran in, not the last either. Holden was now glad he’d quoted Dahlia such a late time, as this probably wouldn’t be a quick jaunt.

The morgue was an unobtrusive building downtown, so desperately anonymous you knew it was trying to hide something. Some wag had spray-painted on a neighboring building Don’t Open, Dead Inside. They deserved points for general humor, but some had to be deducted for the obvious cultural reference.

Inside, it was air conditioned to death—no pun intended—sterile, and smelled mostly of toner and coffee, like any other office. The hallways were long and bland, purely industrial, clinging to normalcy as a counterbalance to its grim reality. A receptionist along the way pointed him in the right direction, and Holden knew he was in the right place when he saw Kevin Robinson.

Kevin was a chunky cop in his dress blues, with the same hangdog expression he always seemed to wear. Holden was reasonably certain he was born with that expression on his face. He also had the bone-deep weariness that suggested he was halfway done with the world and all its shittiness, which was a state Holden had reached roughly fifteen years ago. You didn’t become the gay Punisher because you thought people and the world were ever going to get better.

Kevin nodded upon seeing him and gave a high sign to a medical technician, who apparently unlocked a door for them before Holden followed Kevin into a room full of body drawers. Holden wondered briefly at the security for an area devoted to corpses, but what was that about people being shitty? Hell, they stole some of Roan’s and Paris’s blood samples from a lab, all to infect new people. For the millionth year in a row, humans proved themselves to be the absolute worst.

Kevin walked over to one of the lower drawers and pulled it open as white fluorescents buzzed overhead and threw stark, unflattering light on everything. “Do I even need to warn you about looking at a dead body?” Kevin wondered.

“I worked with Roan, so no,” Holden replied. There were quiet layers here, ones concerning his gay Punisher status and the fact that Kevin had heard those rumors but had no proof of anything. Holden knew if Kevin found that proof, he’d nail him to the wall with it. No matter that Roan was a mutual friend and that they were both gay men—although Kevin was still closeted. They were essentially cop and hustler, and they’d always be adversaries. They were just more polite than most.

“Speaking of which, heard from him lately?” Kevin was trying to act like it was a casual, spur-of-the-moment thing, but for a police officer, he was a terrible liar.

Luckily, Holden knew he was a great liar. He shrugged a single shoulder. “Got an email from him a couple days ago. Hard at work on his book.”

“That’s good,” Kevin replied. He didn’t sound all that mollified, and Holden didn’t blame him. But what was going on with Roan right now was not his news to tell. If Dylan wanted to share it, he would. Besides, he could see it causing Kevin nothing but pain. Sometimes the fear was better than the knowledge.

“Don’t they identify bodies by fingerprints nowadays?” Holden asked.

“Usually. But his fingerprints are all scarred up. Looks like he tried to obliterate them several times before. Can’t get a clean read.”

Kevin had pulled the drawer all the way out, and inside was a partially zipped body bag. The head and upper chest were exposed, and Holden looked down at a ghastly pale man with bloodless lips, messy, greasy black hair, and a clean gash in his torso right where the heart was. His eyes were closed, but he had the same angular cheekbones and pointed nose of the hood rat Holden knew in passing.

“Yeah, that’s Burn. Holy shit, someone killed him?”

Kevin nodded, zipping up the bag. There was a smell, but considering how Burn usually smelled, it wasn’t that bad. It was probably the cleanest Burn had been in some time. “His body was found just outside the Jungle last night. We don’t know if he was killed there or just dumped there. The residents aren’t exactly being cooperative.”

“What, homeless people being scared and suspicious of cops? Who’d have thunk it?”

Kevin closed the drawer and turned to him with a nasty look, which was semi warranted, but then his expression changed. It lightened as if he’d just realized something. “Do you know if he was living there?”

“In the Jungle?” Holden shrugged. “I have no idea. He could have a condo in Queen Anne. Everything I know about Burn could fill a bottle cap.”

“Do you know people in the Jungle?”

Holden realized what Kevin had just twigged to. “Is this where you ask me to ask around in the Jungle about Burn’s death?”

**

About the Author

Andrea Speed is a thought collective from beyond time and space, disguised as an ’88 Toyota hatchback hidden in an illegal dump somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. If you find her, she has to grant you three wishes, but they’ll all have terrible twists, like the sandwich you wished for will be made of Silly Putty, or the pot of gold you request will be full of gold paint. Really, it’s not worth bothering. Also there’s a family of possums living in the hatchback, and the mother can be kind of mean.

 Connect with the author at:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

An Ali Release Day Review: Infected: Throwaways (Mean Streets #2 Infected Universe) by Andrea Speed

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Former prostitute and street kid turned private detective Holden Krause is asked to look into the murder of Burn, a black-market dealer, who turns up dead near the infamous homeless encampment known as the Jungle. It’s a place Holden is familiar with—and his memories of it aren’t entirely bad. The settlement has been taken over by sinister people but Holden isn’t afraid to take them on. A big part of his PI gig is cover for his more dangerous vigilante crusade: exacting justice for the people the system ignores, the throwaways—people just like the ones living in the Jungle.

It’s getting harder and harder for Holden’s partner, Chai Nayar, to look the other way while Holden searches out retribution beyond the confines of the law. When one of their associates is shot and Holden realizes—far too late—that he’s in over his head with this case, Chai is left to pick up the pieces and hopefully save their lives. He resorts to the only solution he can find and calls Roan, who is more lethal than ever. Will it be their saving grace, or a fatal mistake?
 
This story starts with Holden cruising along much like he was at the end of the last book.  With Roan gone, he seems almost rudderless.  He misses Scott but won’t admit it and he doesn’t have any close friends except for Chai who is moving in to his own place.  When Kevin approaches him for help on a case he agrees.  He also ends up working a second case at the same time.  As Chai realizes what Holden actually does on cases he’s not sure this is the job for him.  
 
When things get really out of hand, Chai ends up calling Roan for help.  Roan and Dylan come back to Seattle and Roan helps Chai out.  As someone who loved the original Infected series it was both great and bittersweet to see Roan again.  His situation isn’t any better and that makes me sad but like most Roan fans, I can’t get enough of his story.
We see a decent amount of all of the side characters in this one.  Dee, Kevin, the hockey guys and even Dropkick are all a part of the story. Chai had a decent amount of page time this book and I was happy about that.  We got to know him better and I liked him a lot.  (I was also really happy with where his love life seems to going). 
 
Both mysteries were interesting and fast paced enough to be very entertaining.  As for Holden, well, I don’t know.  He makes some little steps in this book and he seemed a bit vulnerable in regards to his relationship with Scott. But overall he’s a mess and he makes me want to shake him. 
Overall I really enjoyed this.  I’m a huge fan of this series and get excited being back in Seattle with all of the gang.  This was a good installment and I can’t wait to see where the story leads for the next book.  This can not be read as a standalone.
Cover Art:  This cover was done by Anne Cain.  I liked it a lot.  It fits really well with the other covers in the series and it captures the vibe of the story well.
Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon
Book Details:
ebook, 280 pages
Expected publication: February 13th 2018 by DSP Publications
ISBN139781640801189
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Mean Streets #2, Infected #10

Andrea Speed on Soundtracks, Writing and her latest Lochlann (Order of the Black Knights #6) (guest post and excerpt)

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Lochlann (Order of the Black Knights #6) by Andrea Speed
D
reamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Andrea Speed here today. Andrea is talking soundtracks for her stories, specifically her latest novel in the Order of the Black Knights series, Lochlann.  Welcome, Andrea!

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Soundtracks for Lochlann by Andrea Speed

I love making soundtracks for my stories. I have a ton of them, and I’ll admit they’re mostly pretty weird. I know people are supposed to mellow out as they get older, but I’m just getting stranger.

Music played a big part in my Infected series, but less so in my other stories. But just because music doesn’t play a direct part on the page in my Josh of the Damned series, doesn’t mean I didn’t have a soundtrack in mind. (Josh went through an embarrassing emo phase that he refuses to talk about.) The same is true of Lochlann, where music plays no part in the story, but I’m keenly aware of what should be there. I’ve already put together an online soundtrack you can listen to, but I’ll pick out a couple of songs to highlight Lochlann’s musical taste. .

To my way of thinking, Lochlann is a fan of gloomy music. Dark ambient stuff that lasts twenty minutes or so, longer than ever necessary. Stuff you think should be over long before it is, but is still undeniably creepy.

The Inward Circles – The Soul Itself A Rhombus

https://youtu.be/myk_wALF0_0

If you’re saying to yourself “What the hell is this” – congratulations! You have grasped dark ambient as a genre. I feel I can say that as I like quite a bit of it myself, but there’s no dismissing the fact that most of it can be boiled down to “why does this exist” and “who is this for”. An argument could be made it exists for soundtracks, but truth be told, dark ambient isn’t used in soundtracks like it should be, because people who put them together aren’t aware of the genre? Or don’t want to creep people out. Really good dark ambient can freak you the hell out. That’s a feature, not a bug.

Arovane & Porya Hatami – Becoming

https://youtu.be/dwPYry0v0q8

Now this is really dark ambient stuff, in that it’s a concept album. Yes, a collection of subtly shifting tones and notes is somehow a concept album. A really good one too! I encourage you to sit down and listen to the whole thing. I never really considered what a micro-organism might sound like, but this is probably close.

Verge – Deluge

https://youtu.be/y_833qIfDGI

A mild cheat, as this often falls under experimental, but it is very dark ambient sounding. Sometimes you do get genre creep with this style of music, as it is so damn strange. It also sometimes gets filed under electronic or metal, depending on whether it’s heavier with keyboards or guitars, alternate, post-rock, and a few other genres as well. It comes down to opinion of the artist or the listener a lot of the time. In that way, there’s a freedom to dark ambient that is kind of intriguing. It’s hard to define, but you know it when you hear it.

Lawrence English – Hard Rain

https://youtu.be/IrxDvJbZ9VQ


Another one that gets slotted into experimental more often than not, and that’s fair, as all his music doesn’t sound like this. But this is definitely dark ambient style experimental, and I feel that should be encouraged.

I think this puts you into Lochlann’s mindset quite easily, and I hope I encouraged at least one person to look up more dark ambient music. Because believe me, it’s so easy to write to, especially if you’re working on a dark or dramatic story. Let the creepiness commence!

**

Blurb

Violence has been Lochlann O’Connor’s companion since he was born into a family of old-school Irish terrorists. From there he is recruited into Alpha, a secret government agency dedicated to fighting terrorism—with extreme prejudice. Lochlann’s bravery, efficiency, ruthlessness, and the natural dead eye that lets him hit anything that moves, quickly make him one of the shadowy organization’s most valued operatives.

Cas Vega joins Alpha because it’s marginally better than a prison sentence. He’s a former drug cartel assassin—or at least that’s his story. But Lochlann is suspicious. Despite an irrational and overwhelming attraction to Cas, Lochlann has questions, and they soon lead to a deeper and deadlier mystery. What is Alpha’s true purpose, and why does it seem they want to eliminate Lochlann?

Lochlann and Cas must work together to get to the bottom of Alpha’s scheme and escape it—and all while Cas keeps secrets that could cost him his life if they’re revealed. But it’s not an alliance that can last. Duty turns the men into enemies, even while fate compels them into each other’s arms. Before they can contemplate which will prevail, they must figure out how to survive.

 

Excerpt

 

Lochlann knew the mission had gone bad the second before Anze came over his earpiece and said, “We’ve been comp—” The rest of the sentence disappeared in a burst of static.

Not that it mattered. He knew what Anze was trying to say. And yet he barely quickened his pace as the emergency siren ripped through the building. Hoping security hadn’t been shut down yet, he ran Dr. Waters’s ID keycard through the door scanner. It beeped, and the light turned green as the lock released with a faint clunk. He opened the door and ducked inside as lights pulsed on the walls.

He was in the lowest level of the Kishigawa Pharmaceuticals building in Prague, which was actually a needless detail, as the building could have been any one of the two dozen or so Kishigawa Pharmaceutical buildings across the globe. The layouts were cookie cutter, exactly the same, which made it easy to find points of entrance and egress. But getting into the building was never the hard part of any operation. Getting what they came for and leaving were the issues.

He was on the second sublevel, which, according to the official records, was an empty storage area but was actually a secret lab, cooking up a biological weapon that made sarin gas seem like hot sauce. Alpha wanted to get the formula before Dr. Laska put it on the open market. That was Lochlann’s job—to neutralize the creator, and retrieve the only known sample of the finished product. And get out alive, which was the biggest challenge.

A lab assistant wearing thick glasses ran up to him. “Dr. Waters, do you know what’s going on?”

He was supposed to neutralize any witnesses. He had his Glock 30SF and his tactical knife, or he could simply punch the assistant in the larynx and kill him with a single blow. He would be neither the first nor the last innocent bystander Lochlann had killed.

So why didn’t he?

“Fire,” he said, jerking his head back toward the door. “Evacuate immediately.”

The assistant looked confused as Lochlann continued down the corridor. “Sir, what about you?”

“I’ll be right there. I have to get Dr. Laska. Go outside.” The comms were off. That burst of static that cut off Anze sounded like a jamming signal. If you couldn’t receive, you couldn’t send either. So officially none of it ever happened.

Laska’s lab was at the end of the hall. It was an airtight room with its own filtration system and its own inner airlock. No one ever asked why Dr. Laska needed those precautious. It was an idiosyncrasy everyone tolerated without knowing the reason behind it.

Dr. Laska’s assistant, Tinordi, turned to face him as Lochlann entered the room. “Dr. Waters, you’re not—”

Lochlann punched Tinordi square in the throat, crushing his larynx and windpipe. He crumpled to the floor and made terrible rasping sounds in lieu of breathing. He had to die—he worked on the project—but at least he’d die fast.

Laska was in his inner lab with his back turned to the outer chamber. That allowed Lochlann to cycle the airlock without being noticed. In there he couldn’t hear the emergency alert siren, which seemed like a tragic oversight. Laska would never know.

Once the airlock irised open, Laska, without turning around, said, “Bring me a number three flask, would you?” Laska assumed Lochlann was Tinordi. He didn’t know his assistant was dead in the adjoining room.

Lochlann didn’t answer immediately. He pulled out his Glock first. “I’m not your assistant.”

The strange voice made Laska spin on his heels, and he froze the second he saw the gun. His small eyes narrowed until they almost disappeared into the soft, white moon of his face. “Who do you work for? The Russians? The Chinese?”

Lochlann didn’t answer. Instead he fired, put a neat hole in Laska’s forehead, and blew his brains over the white wall behind him. Crimson bloomed messily and dripped down the wall, while grisly chunks splattered to the ground. Laska crumpled like a marionette that just had its strings cut. Lochlann stepped over the body and made his way to the wall safe, where the sample dubbed “formula X213” was stored.

Alpha had infiltrated Laska’s home and business computers a while before. The tech team had stolen all data on the formula and destroyed it, damaging the research from the inside out. They knew the safe code and all Laska’s other codes, because when Alpha targeted you, you were as good as dead in every sense of the word.

The safe opened with a pneumatic hiss, as it was temperature controlled, and Lochlann found the formula inside a vacuum-sealed thermos. He held it in his hand as he scanned the room and saw the incinerator in the corner.

A huge metal box, plastered with warning stickers, it used microwaves and intense heat not just to bake an object, but essentially to vaporize it and leave barely even a char mark. That was how Laska got rid of his previous failed formulas and kept industrial spies from taking even the tiniest samples of his work. Nothing survived that incinerator, not even clues.

Why did Alpha want formula X213? At the briefing Number One instructed them to wipe out all records of it, along with the scientist who created it. It was too deadly. A teaspoon of the stuff could kill everyone in a crowded mall, and in the open it could contaminate soil, air, and water for decades. But they wanted the sample. Yes, they had the formula, so they could make it themselves, but there was something tricky about the mixture. He didn’t know what. He didn’t need to. He was a field operative, not a tech.

The operation had never felt right to him. Alpha had plans for it, and he didn’t trust Alpha. They were supposed to be the good guys, but questions had been eating at him since the Rome incident. Alpha worked in deception. Could anything that relied on obfuscation be exactly what it seemed?

Before he could think about what he was doing, he went to the incinerator, dropped the thermos in, and activated it. He had to step back because the heat it shed was impressive, and the noise it made, while brief, was incredibly loud… which might have explained why Laska’s lab was soundproofed.

He had no idea what he was going to say to Number One, but he’d figure it out. Working for Alpha had made him an excellent liar.

He planted the explosive charge and shed his lab coat and fake Dr. Waters ID. Then he grabbed Dr. Laska’s security badge from his bloodied corpse and left the lab. Lochlann kept up his normal stride, as though he were leaving at the end of a shift, but he still had his gun out, held casually down at his side in his left hand. According to his trainer, he was one of the rarest of people—a truly ambidextrous shooter. He could use either hand with virtually the same results.

Lochlann met no one on his way to the exit. He’d have to kill anyone he encountered. The exit door had a security lock, and there was a chance that, if they’d locked the entire system down, it wouldn’t open even for Laska’s high-clearance badge. Hopefully the interruption to the comms hadn’t completely locked Alpha out of the building’s systems.

The first time he ran the badge through the lock, it made a negative noise and the light stayed red. He ran it again, and got the same response. Lochlann counted down in his head the time remaining to detonation as he ran the badge a third time and it worked. The light flashed green, and the lock released with a clunk. He flung it open and was out in the subterranean parking lot within five seconds. And despite the low lighting, he knew he wasn’t alone.

Buy link: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/lochlann-by-andrea-speed-8493-b

About the Author

Andrea Speed is a random collection of newspapers and food scraps that somehow became sentient. Perhaps this explains her fear of goats. If you see her, just nod politely as she tells you how composting is an Illuminati conspiracy, and try not to make any sudden moves.

Author contacts:

An Ali Release Day Review: Lochlann (Order of the Black Knights #6) by Andrea Speed

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Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Violence has been Lochlann O’Connor’s companion since he was born into a family of old-school Irish terrorists. From there he is recruited into Alpha, a secret government agency dedicated to fighting terrorism—with extreme prejudice. Lochlann’s bravery, efficiency, ruthlessness, and the natural dead eye that lets him hit anything that moves, quickly make him one of the shadowy organization’s most valued operatives.

Cas Vega joins Alpha because it’s marginally better than a prison sentence. He’s a former drug cartel assassin—or at least that’s his story. But Lochlann is suspicious. Despite an irrational and overwhelming attraction to Cas, Lochlann has questions, and they soon lead to a deeper and deadlier mystery. What is Alpha’s true purpose, and why does it seem they want to eliminate Lochlann?

Lochlann and Cas must work together to get to the bottom of Alpha’s scheme and escape it—and all while Cas keeps secrets that could cost him his life if they’re revealed. But it’s not an alliance that can last. Duty turns the men into enemies, even while fate compels them into each other’s arms. Before they can contemplate which will prevail, they must figure out how to survive.
 
This is the 6th book in the Order of the Black Knights series.  This series is unique in the fact that each book is written by a different author and they can all be read as standalones.  There is a short, but thorough description of the world and the events that are happening in it so you know what’s going on when you start the book.
I was excited about this book as the author is a favorite of mine.  Unfortunately the book was just ok for me.  Lochlann works for Alpha, a secret  government agency, and he thinks he is a good guy.  Through the course of this book he finds out that things are not quite what they seem.  Lochlann and Cas meet when they are assigned to work together.  Lochlann knows something is off about Cas but he doesn’t realize Cas’ secrets are going to implode his entire world.
The action scenes were good and entertaining.  Very Jason Bourne-ish.  The romance part was where the book didn’t meet my expectations.  I didn’t feel any connection between Lochlann and Cas at all.  Most of their time intimate time takes place off page.  I’m not talking about sex scenes, although those were fade to black too, but we don’t see much of them getting to know each other and falling for each other.  When they’re on page together it is usually some sort of action scene.  So, even by the end, I didn’t feel I knew either MC and I hadn’t at all bought in to their relationship.  The story was all telling and no showing.
Overall, this was just an average read for me.  It wasn’t bad but also wasn’t what I was hoping it would be.
The cover was done by Aaron Anderson.  I think it is well done and I like how all of the books in the series have covers that are similar.
Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press | Amazon
Book Details:
ebook
Expected publication: May 22nd 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleLochlann
ISBN 1635333954 (ISBN13: 9781635333954)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesOrder of the Black Knights #6

A MelanieM Review Redux: Infected: Bloodlines (Infected #2) by Andrea Speed

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Infected Bloodlines 2 by Andrea SpeedIn a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.

The newly married Roan is struggling to balance his work with his home life as he grows increasingly distracted by his husband Paris’s declining health. One case with strong emotions attached takes up most of his time: finding the murderer of a missing little rich girl. It’s a family with secrets so toxic they’d rather no one investigate, and there’s no shortage of suspects. But despite the dangers and obstructions involved, Roan won’t stop… until he loses something infinitely precious as well.

Note: This book remains one of my favorites of the series and is still the most heartbreaking.  Even mentions of Paris in subsequent stories will bring memories of this book flooding back as  well as the tears it engendered.  I had no idea that instead of fading away, the idea of Roan and Paris actually got stronger for me in the series.  Did the author have any idea this would happen?  I think not.  But Paris will forever eclipse Dylan as Roan’s mate in my eyes and the Holiday stories just cemented that.  But this book, oh this book, dug them so deep into my heart nothing could ever pull them out.  Here is that old review.

I knew this book would be heartbreaking from the very beginning. After falling in love with Roan and Paris in the first Infected book, I had been debating how quickly I wanted to delve into this one. I decided on the cowardly choice and read a much lighter book instead. But the characters kept calling me and truthfully, I just had to know what happened next.

As expected, the sniffles started from the very first page. Andrea Speed has created such a mesmerizing universe here populated with beings both memorable and haunting. Roan McKitchen is hired to find a missing girl, a case that turns into a murder with a suspect at each new development. Paris Lehane (Roan’s partner/husband) is involved in a fight of his own as the infection and the Tiger virus take its toll. The warm and loving relationship of these two men (built in this and the first book) is countered by the realities of Paris’ condition and Roan’s attempts to deal with it. Paris and Roan aren’t perfect, and their relationship has taken work. But the pain coming off both men is genuine as are the motions they go through. Denial, anger, depression and bargaining, Roan is dealing with them all as the case of the murdered girl gets murkier. All the people around Roan and Paris are beautifully fleshed out characters, remarkable in the impressions they leave you with.

By the time I finished the book, my box of tissues was as empty as I felt. So, can you love a book when you hate whats coming? In my case, yes. Andrea Speed made me care so much about these people that I was drained at the end but would not have missed the journey. With 2 more published books to this series yet.

So I think I will go read something frivolous or one of my comfort reads before I head into the 3rd book. But the pain and heartache of this story is worth it. And it will stay with me for some time to come.

Cover art is more to my liking as I like to think its Roan trying to run away from what he knows is coming. Powerful.

Sales Links:  DSP Publications | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 2nd Edition, 224 pages
Published October 14th 2014 by DSP Publications (first published December 16th 2010)
Original TitleInfected: Bloodlines
ISBN 1632163284 (ISBN13: 9781632163288)
CharactersRoan McKichan

Series:

A MelanieM Review Redux: Infected: Prey (Infected #1) by Andrea Speed

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Note:  This was the first of the Infected Stories, written back in 2010, when it first came out.  Now 8 stories  later, Roan’s tale is done.  Or is it?  Here’s a look back at the series, leading up to my review of the Holiday special on the 17th and a series review.  Roan will always have my heart.

 

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

 

Infected Prey“In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.

The murder of a former cop draws Roan into an odd case where an unidentifiable species of cat appears to be showing an unusual level of intelligence. He juggles that with trying to find a missing teenage boy, who, unbeknownst to his parents, was “cat” obsessed. And when someone is brutally murdering infecteds, Eli Winters, leader of the Church of the Divine Transformation, hires Roan to find the killer before he closes in on Eli.

Working the crimes will lead Roan through a maze of hate, personal grudges, and mortal danger. With help from his tiger-strain infected partner, Paris Lehane, he does his best to survive in a world that hates and fears their kind… and occasionally worships them.”

This is the first book of Andrea Speed’s that I read and it is a case of love at first read.  Infected Prey includes the first two books in this series and what a fabulous introduction to this author.

The world created here is one in which a werecat virus has spread much like HIV through society and governments are struggling to deal with it much like they did with AIDS in the initial stages of discovery and scientific research.  At this time, there is no idea how this blood born pathogen came into being although it is suggested that the government might have something to do with it.  Again, much like HIV, some are born with it (virus children) and some are infected, whether by accident (transfusions) or intention (attacks or choice).

Roan McKichan was born an infected child.  Now grown, he is a ex-cop and P.I.  The years of growing up unwanted and in abusive foster homes, have left him wary, cynical, and  isolated.  His partner, Paris Lehane, is a Infected by malevolent intent and carries the rare Tiger strain.  Paris is the only one that Roan lets get close to him physically and more importantly, emotionally.  The heart of this book is  the relationship between these two men, both incredibly different and yet deeply in love with each other.  Two unique voices that leap off the page and demand your attention.

In Andrea Speed’s world, shifting from one species to another is not an easy matter.  In fact, it’s painful, debilitating, and in some cases lethal.   Those Infected are caged during their change for society’s protection, whether it is cages at home supplied by the State or at the Police Station in a special ward.  Still, there are some who wish to be Infected themselves and the Church of the Divine Transformation draws those individuals like flies to raw meat.  And someone is killing them.

Hired by the head of the Church to find the killer, Roan and his lover, Paris, struggle to find the killer while dealing with the dynamics of their relationship, their health problems, and the fact that Roan is changing in ways neither man can grasp.

Intense, sometimes funny, and always addictive.  Here is Roan in a mall store trying to get information from a clerk:

Roan: “I’m a cat, yeah. I’m a virus child.”

“Really?” Her eyes were shining now. He was another boring adult when he walked in, but now he was suddenly exotic and appealing. “Cool.” He thought of Paris’s breaking bones, and wanted to backhand her across the face.”

Short, succinct, and telling.

There are more in this series, four published and another on the way.

I give this a 4.5 and am on my way to starting the second book, Infected Bloodlines, that looks to be a heartbreaker.  I’ll let you all know what I find.

But in the meantime, pick this one up.  Let me know what you think.  I think you will love it.

Cover art is textured and dark but the character that is supposed to be portraying Roan is just not my idea of him, including the dark red mane.

Sales Links: DSP Publications | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 2nd Edition, 384 pages
Published October 14th 2014 by DSP Publications (first published June 24th 2010)
Original TitlePrey
ISBN 1632163268 (ISBN13: 9781632163264)

SeriesInfected #1
CharactersRoan McKichan, Paris Lehane settingSeattle, Washington (United States)

 

Series:

A BJ Review: Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy – authors Jordan Castillo Price, Rhys Ford, Ginn Hale, KJ Charles, Nicole Kimberling, Jordan L. Hawk, Astrid Amara, Andrea Speed, Lou Harper, Charlie Cochet

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Charmed and DangerousTake a cauldron full of magic, add a pinch of humor, a dash of snark and a huge dollop of m/m goodness, and what do you get? Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy. This all-new collection is packed with arcane action and intrigue, and every story will whisk you away to a fantastical world where the hero finds his prince and the paranormal investigator always gets his man.

Overall Rating:  4.25 stars out of 5

Tales of magic in some of its many forms with, according to the intro, a theme of sympathetic monsters. Well, hell, doesn’t that play right into my love for a good anti-hero! Plus when I saw the lineup of authors on this one, my mouth just about fell open. What a line up! I’m so on board to read this one. Please note that a few of the stories hook into a series and doubtless you will enjoy them those few more if you’re familiar with the series. One of them was a series I’d read, but the other, unfortunately, I was not at all familiar with as it’s a new to me author. Therefore, I discussed that one but did not rate it as I didn’t feel I had the background to do it justice.

The stories are listed in the order in which they appear in the anthology rather than by rating.

Dim Sum Asylum by Rhys Ford – 3.5 stars
Half-fae Detective Roku MacCormick works Arcane Crimes in San Francisco’s Chinatown. He’s cleared for duty after shooting his last partner and back on the job with a new case and a new partner. Trent Leonard, isn’t at all what he’d expected.

I own some books by this author that I’ve not gotten around to reading, but after this I definitely will soon. Because she can tear up the page.

Rich with description and detail, and since I’ve actually lived in San Francisco for a while, that was pretty cool for me. It starts with a rip-roaring chase scene through the streets of Chinatown complete with dragons and mermen, but despite the action I found the story hard to sink into. I felt lost, like I’d been thrown into the middle of an action movie with nothing to hold on to or maybe like jumping into part two of a series when I’d missed the beginning–it was jarring and confusing. Chapter two did clear up a lot of things and bring me more smoothly into the world and story, but the overall fast pace continued and it was hard for me to connect with the characters until closer to the end. That said, the imagery, imagination and details are amazing and vibrant. And the sex was smoking. If you like a kick ass story that goes from zero to sixty in five seconds flat with a flaming hot sex chaser, this story is for you!

Swift and the Black Dog by Ginn Hale – 3.75 stars 
The wizard Jack Swift became a national hero when he killed a tyrant and won the revolution. They even made movies about him! But now it seems like someone in the new government wants him dead.

Well-written, superb imagery. So wizards aren’t well accepted; they’re mostly considered trouble. And gay men are scorned as well. That, and living with his past, makes life hard for Jack despite his hero status.

First few chapters, the author did three things. One: The beginning of this story was slow to pull me in—until suddenly it grabbed me by the throat. Two: I didn’t like Jack much—and then it was made vividly clear that neither did he. Three: In one paragraph, one sentence really, I suddenly hated Peter with a fiery passion that put me completely in Jack’s corner yelling, “Kill the bastard, Jack. Kill him NOW!” Except that would be real hard considering… ah, well… no spoilers.

There’s a romance here, but it’s neither sexy nor sweet. Mostly this story is an eloquent, twisted tale of betrayal and revenge.

A Queer Trade by KJ Charles – 4 stars
Apprentice magician Crispin Tredarloe returns to London to find his master dead and some of the papers he’d written spells upon sold. Some of those spells might mean death so he sets out to get them back. Waste paper seller Ned Hall can’t resist Crispin, but can the two find the papers and prevent a disaster?

Well-written with a beginning that pulled me into it quickly. I enjoyed that it was written from both character’s POV as it gave me a connection to them both. Two likable main characters, but Ned especially for sticking by Crispin as he did. There was chemistry and some lovely hot, sexy bits between them. Nice plot that picked up speed as it went along with a satisfying resolution.

However, I should mention that this story did have parts that rather grossed me out. So warning, possible high ICK factor here, depending on what pushes your ick buttons, of course. *shudder*

Magically Delicious by Nicole Kimberling – 4 stars
Attacks against NIAD agents aren’t Keith Curry’s department–until his transmogrified goblin boyfriend, Gunther, is the target. Keith begins working the case even though that means pissing off powerful mages, crossing leprechaun picket lines, and braving dinner with goblin parents.

This one was so much fun. Mages, goblins, leprechauns, and pixies, oh my! The beginning just sucked me in immediately. Such interesting characters that I wanted to know all about them. Love the mage pistol and well, heck, this was just a super imaginative story. I figured out where the pixie dust had come from long before it came out, but it was still a fun ride getting to the bottom of exactly why and how. Gunther’s goblin family were great fun. The pixies and leprechauns (esp. Carrot Beard) were hilarious. But most of all, I adored Gunther the transmogrified goblin and would love to read more about him and Keith’s relationship, how they came to be together and definitely more in depth sexy bits please.

Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns by Jordan Castillo Price – 3.75 stars
Psychic medium Victor Bayne can spot a ghost any day of the year, but Halloween holds some special surprises. Victor and Jacob are on their way to a Halloween party, when Victor remembers something from his past. His psych-groupie boyfriend Jacob coaxes him to the location of the old spirit sighting, but they can’t ghost hunt without enduring a cheesy “haunted house” that’s even more disturbing than they realize.

Within the bowls of an old theatre, the guys encounter far more than just a ghost clown needing to cross over. As always between these two, any excuse for a sexy encounter is taken and the heat level between them is as hot as ever.

Well-written with ghost exhibitionism, glitter and goo, painted pumpkins and lots of spooky imagery. I’ve always found clowns and fun houses to be extremely creepy, but I do love this series. Victor and Jake are so darn hot together—wherever they are.

The Thirteenth Hex by Jordan L. Hawk – 5 stars
Dominic Kopecky is a Metropolitan Witch Police fanboy who failed the magic aptitude tests when he was young. He’d dreamed of working at MWP with witches and their familiars who take the form of birds, toads, and cats. But his lack of magic led him to become the next best thing—a hexman who does the grunt work of using ink, paper and gemstones to create spells that witches later activate with their magic. But hexes were an exact science and a badly done one could turn very deadly when activated.

When the beautiful unbonded crow familiar, Rook, seeks Dominic’s help investigating murder by hex Dominic isn’t sure why. He’s not a witch, the case has already been closed, and someone seems willing to kill to keep it that way.

I loved this one right from the start. Well-written, well-paced, intriguing characters, and a very unusual world set up. I thought it was funny that the familiar was a crow and Dominic’s last name was KoPECKy. Made me laugh. As did some of lines like ‘keep your beak out of it’ and a bunch of others. A lovely sweet romance, some nice heat, and a fun story. Overall, it just hit all the right notes for me.

The Soldati Prince by Charlie Cochet – 5 stars
Riley Murrough is a barista cleaning up after a day’s work when he’s suddenly being chased by demons, and rescued by tigers, one of which transforms into a huge man covered in tribal tattoos. If that wasn’t bad enough, he’s told that he bears the mark of a shapeshifter and whisked off to a magical realm.

Well-written story told from both Riley’s and Khalon’s POV, this story started off a bit confusing for me but very soon that changed and it sucked me in. At first witty, snarky fun with some really interesting side characters, but then things begin to shift. Within a chapter, there was a sweet romance that made me swoon and events that had me in tears and I completely loved Khalon and Riley. I really want to read more about this world and especially about the side characters Toka and Rayner as well. Loved those guys, too. The way Khalon and Rayner (best friends) bickered rocked. And the ending line was perfect Riley!

This was my first read by this author and will definitely not be my last, I really enjoyed her writing style.

One Hex Too Many by Lou Harper – 4.25 stars
Veteran detective Mike Mulligan is an expert on violent occult crimes at the Extramundane Crimes Division. Most of his fellow officers consider him cursed because of how many partners he’s lost and refuse to partner with him. Detective Hugh Fox is a rookie, eager to partner up and prove himself. However, Mulligan is accustomed to flying solo and not used to trusting a partner with his life. Not helped when one of the first things out of Fox’s mouth is to point out to Mulligan that he’s not gay.

Communicating via the bathroom mirror. Rogue hacker wizards=wackers (love that). A flamboyant blond desk clerk who can change sex at will uses glamour and charm spells on everyone in the force regularly as exposure training. All that in the first few pages let know right away that this was going to be a fun ride.

The duo is assigned to track a killer using dark magic—an offense at the top of the list of Prohibited Practices. Despite having gotten off to a rough start, I liked how Mulligan treated Fox from the get go. He seemed such a natural at training for a guy who hadn’t wanted a partner. Considerate of not making him look bad by correcting in front of others even when he was a trainee for instance. Early on a semi-drunken kiss motivated by a big red bed after the two of them had sung some off-note Karaoke made things a bit awkward—and yeah, that’s the kind of fun that ensues. The pace of their relationship development is fairly slow, which I liked, but I wanted to see/feel more heat. I enjoyed this new to me author’s writing style, quick paced, witty and fun, but with close attention to details of world building as well as the mystery elements. I would love a story about Leslie.

Josh of the Damned vs. the Bathroom of Doom by Andrea Speed 
It’s a boring night at the Quik-Mart for Josh and his friend Doug. Until a vampire with a grudge—and the most adorable backup ever—crashes the store. Can Josh survive the Bathroom of Doom?

A new to me author and I’m not familiar with this series, so right off that put me at a bit of a disadvantage going into this. Overall well-written story, but I was rather lost some of the time and for that reason, I am not going to assign this story an individual star rating. Honestly this story squicked me out, including how Josh described and thought about things—I’m pretty sure this had to do with my total lack of background reference on him to go on, but I have to be honest and say that Josh and Doug didn’t appeal to me. The Medusa bracelet was cool. I think fans of this series will enjoy this well-written quirky story. It just wasn’t for me.

The Trouble With Hexes by Astrid Amara – 5 stars
P.I. Tim Keller has a problem. And the only person who can solve it is his ex-boyfriend, Vincent, whose job as a hexbreaker was the reason they broke up. It’s hard admitting he was wrong, especially when coughing up organs. But there’s a missing person to find, a hexmaker to hunt down, and a romance to repair before Tim breathes his last.

Wow, this one grabbed me by the throat. With a death grip. Tim broke up with Vincent, a tattoo artist, six months ago because he didn’t believe in the mumbo jumbo he’d started working with in his spare time and couldn’t stomach the danger it put him in. Conversely, Vincent made more effort to hide what he was doing than to explain and show it to Tim right up until the blow up at the end.

A few months later, Tim began to sicken and when doctors found no cure he had to face the truth he’d sensed all along… he’d been hexed. He shows up on Vincent’s doorstep a mere shadow of the man he’d been, suddenly having no choice but to believe in what he’d scoffed at. But even if Vincent wants to help him, it turns out that breaking a withering hex is no easy matter.

The writing in this last and lengthiest story is excellent as is the pacing. The characters are well-drawn and sucked me right into their life and world. Plenty of heat, some “aww” moments, and some parts that made me teary. And even a sweet little dog. What more could I want? My favorite of this anthology—for me, an excellent example of saving the best for last.

Cover is both hot and intriguing, it also most definitely says paranormal to me and made me want to check this book out upon first sight.

Sales Links:  JCP Books |  Amazon | Buy It Here


Book Details:

Expected publication: August 25th 2015 by JCP Books LLC
original title Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy
ISBN139781935540809
edition language English